Flames Weekly offers a look at how the Calgary Flames performed in the previous week. Be sure to check in every Monday for my take on the week that was, and to find out which storylines and players took center stage. Feel free to use the comment section below to let me know how you thought the team performed or post any ideas or questions about the Flames.
As the Flames kept chugging along in the month of February, it almost felt like this squad was never going to lose another game. They were beating good teams, and they were beating bad teams. They were blowing the doors off opponents, and they were winning tight games, too. That’s why I was so surprised that with a chance to set a new franchise record for consecutive wins, Calgary suffered its worst loss of the season on Saturday night. That’s also why I wasn’t surprised when they bounced back the very next game against one of the best teams in the Western conference.
After Dropping Jets to Match Win Record, Flames Fall Flat in Vancouver
Last Monday, the Flames finished up a season long seven-game home stand against a Winnipeg Jets squad that was desperate to get back into the playoff picture. While the home side outchanced and outshot the visitors, the Jets played a stingy game that was knotted at one goal a side late into the third frame. I don’t think anyone was surprised to see the hottest Flame secure the W with 47 seconds left in regulation.
With Elias Lindholm‘s timely snipe, the team made it a very historic night. First up, Lindholm’s eighth marker in eight straight contests equaled Gary Roberts and Kent Nilsson for the Flames’ record of most consecutive games with a goal. Secondly, the team made NHL history by sweeping a home stand of at least seven games. Last but not least, the 3-1 victory over the Jets matched the franchise record of 10 straight and gave them an opportunity to own the record outright.
What happened in Vancouver on Thursday night with the winning streak on the line was definitely not what I was expecting. After a very even first period where both netminders played lights out to keep the game scoreless, the wheels completely fell off for the Flames. In Calgary’s worst second frame since I don’t know when, the Vancouver Canucks piled up five goals against Jacob Markstrom and Dan Vladar. Four straight second period penalties led to three power play goals that turned this game from a 0-0 goaltending duel into a 7-1 drubbing.
For a team that prides itself on playing a disciplined game, that particular attribute was nowhere to be found. That shouldn’t have been a big deal, as the Flames’ penalty kill was heralded as being one of the league’s best. However, after the dust settled on the game, head coach Darryl Sutter was very blunt about the unit’s performance. “Our penalty-killers weren’t very good tonight, he told reporters. “Our defence as a group was borderline awful so that reflected in our penalty kill.”
Despite the terrible night for the PK, the Flames still sit second in the NHL in penalty kill percentage at 85.6, so I don’t think the coaching staff will hit the panic button after a single game meltdown. The lone bright spot for Calgary was Andrew Mangiapane‘s team-leading 26th goal of the season with only a couple minutes left in the game. At least the visiting squad spoiled Thatcher Demko’s shutout bid, although that’s a very small consolation.
Flames Show Moxie in Convincing Victory Over Wild
Here’s the thing. How a team responds the game after getting completely embarrassed can show a lot about its character. On the heels of a 7-1 pounding, the Flames found themselves facing one of the most exciting teams to watch in the Western conference in the Minnesota Wild. Just one minute into the contest, the Wild’s Frederick Gaudreau beat Markstrom after tipping in a shot from the point and I thought: “oh boy, here we go again”. But, instead of folding their tent like they did in Vancouver, the home team scored five unanswered goals.
Matthew Tkachuk and newcomer Tyler Toffoli led the Flames with two goals and an assist each, while Mangiapane continued his recent hot play by potting his 27th of the year, edging out teammate Tkachuk by one goal for the team lead. A couple of empty netters inflated the final score to 7-3, but I’m still very impressed that this squad put up seven just two days after giving up seven.
Now that we can stop talking about the franchise record for consecutive wins being snapped, we can start talking about how the Flames have matched the all-time record for home wins with their 11th straight. They’ll get their chance to own that record outright when they return to the Dome on Thursday.
The Week’s Winners and Losers
With three games this past week, the Flames continue their very busy second-half schedule. As always, there was no shortage of storylines to follow, so let’s dive in and see who made the biggest impressions, positive or negative.
- It wouldn’t be a Flames Weekly without me mentioning some Flame marking a major milestone. This time, it’s Tkachuk’s turn in the spotlight, as the superpest marked his 400th career NHL game on Saturday night – all of them playing in Calgary. The 24-year-old was the sixth overall selection in the 2016 NHL Draft and he’s played the most games of anybody in his draft class. His 337 career points is second only to the Toronto Maple Leafs Auston Matthews by players drafted in the same year. Well done, “Chucky”!
- In the last few weeks, no Flame has been hotter than Lindholm and the league finally took notice. Last Monday, he 27-year-old Swede was honored as the NHL’s first star of the week. This is actually the fifth time this season that a Calgary player has been named an NHL weekly star. Johnny Gaudreau has gotten the nod twice, and so has Markstrom. I guess that’s what happens when a team vaults to second place in the Western conference.
- And speaking of Gaudreau, fans in Calgary were sent into a tizzy on Wednesday after Flames assistant general manager Craig Conroy described the contract negotiations with the team’s leading scorer as a “done deal”. Conroy made the comment on the Sportsnet 960 morning show, but he quickly added the caveat “we’re going to get that done.” I don’t know if this is simply wishful thinking, or maybe there has been actual progress on hammering out an extension for “Johnny Hockey”. Time will tell.
- On Tuesday, the Flames surprised the hockey world by hiring former Anaheim Ducks general manager (GM) Bob Murray as a scout. Murray 67, served as the Ducks GM from 2008 to 2021 but stepped down following an investigation into his “toxic behavior” with the club. He then announced he would be entering a rehabilitation program for alcohol abuse. On Wednesday, Calgary GM Brad Treliving addressed the hiring and explained to the media that he felt Murray deserved a second chance. “We all have challenges. We all make mistakes at some point,” Treliving said. “It’s easy to pick up a rock… Bob’s a good person that made some mistakes.” I really hope this risky move works out, for everyone’s sake.
- Lastly, I know that the Flames’ head coach can come across as a little prickly during his media availabilities, but this past week, the 63-year-old bench boss shared some rather entertaining thoughts about having a cushion in the Pacific division standings. “A cushion is a pillow with feathers, right? Every game you lose, you take a few feathers out.” I never thought of it that way before, but I think he has a point.
Flames Week Ahead
The Flames’ next opponent is a familiar one, as they travel to Minnesota to take on the Wild on Tuesday. Just two days later, the boys in red host a much-improved Montreal Canadiens squad at the Scotiabank Saddledome. Calgary wraps up the week with their toughest test of the 2021-22 season. On Saturday night, they’ll be in Denver to battle the best team in the league. Would I consider the upcoming contest against the Colorado Avalanche to be a “statement game”? You bet I do.
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Greg Tysowski is a former broadcast journalist who chose the exciting life of a stay-at-home dad for over a decade. He’s now a published author, parenting blogger and aspiring sports writer covering the Calgary Flames for The Hockey Writers. Greg is also a regular contributor to the weekly roundtable discussion “Flames Faceoff”, now streaming on YouTube and all podcast outlets.